Finding Your Creative Voice

17 Mar

How do you get inspired? What gives your work that extra special mojo? What do you do when you’re feeling overworked, tired or stuck? How do you describe your style to clients?

Harnessing creative inspiration on the fly, and refining your vision to establish your own personal style are two of the most challenging things that artists work towards. Notice I say “artists” and not just “photographers” – what we do isn’t just “take a picture” or “snap a photo” – we use our personal skill, vision, experiences, emotions, all the things that make us uniquely us – to capture a moment. And when it happens, it’s magical, exhilarating… one of the many reasons we photographers are so passionate about our craft.

At WPPI this year, I was eager to find inspiration and to see how other photographers (especially the extremely busy and successful ones) kept the momentum going. I hit the jackpot; I couldn’t write or snap photos fast enough… Here are highlights and tips from the amazingly talented, thoughtful artists who shared them with me:

Jim Garner

WPPI Platform Class: A Creative Explosion – Reinvent, Simplify and Thrive

Refocus : The slowing economy, new competition, and “more work for less money” mentality is hurting creativity. We need to spend time to keep our creative spirit high so we can have longevity in this industry.

Reinvent : We must creatively reinvent ourselves regularly to stay fresh.

Redefine : Remember we are creating art; structure your business for profit by delivering art not pictures.

Create for Your Clients : When meeting with your client, properly identify their taste and vision, and deliver them art with long-term value.

Value Creativity : Creative intelligence is undervalued in our society. Don’t be like everyone else, explore your creativity and make your work your own. All successful photographers have their own, unique look.

Get Real : Stop looking for portfolio moments to happen. Start shooting!

Be on the Move : Keep your subjects moving during portraits. Use motion to keep it fresh and elicit emotion. Things happen when there is movement!

Stay Connected : Don’t break eye contact with your subjects. Keep them talking and comfortable. Shoot in fast bursts then interact with your client.

Choose Wisely : When posting online, advertising, etc, select photos that are evocative of the style you want to be shooting. You’ll naturally attract clients who have similar sensibilities and will be excited for your vision.

Jared Platt

The Photographer’s Eye: Get inspired and Elevate the Level of Your Photography

Ditch the Ego : Photos are not about us. YOU are not a rockstar. Make the images about somebody, or something, important.

Change Your Vantage Point : Always be looking at things differently. The most interesting thing at a parade is the onlookers, not the parade.

Experiment : Use the frame in creative ways to create energy, disquiet, discomfort. Don’t get lost in the box; remember that objects, people, anything can create an organic frame within your viewfinder. Challenge yourself to improve your framing skill by shooting without zoom, using only fixed lenses.

Look for the Pregnant Moment : Sit and wait. Be patient and alert. Look for the moment that the image was born to be. And remember – you won’t always get the shot; moments happen whether you are there or not.

Sketching and Composition : Draw images you’ve shot from memory. Compare with the original photos and find ways to improve. Evaluate other artists’ photos and ask why they are successful or have failings. THINK about the images and figure out what could have been done better.

Stop Shooting : Sometimes, it’s time to put the camera away. Live your life and experience it fully. If you don’t, you won’t be able to capture and connect with other people’s lives.

Dawn Shields

Expertise Intertwined: Connecting Art & Business

Personal Projects : Doing work for yourself can expand your creativity and help you become more connected with your clients. (Here’s a link to one of Dawn’s personal projects; her album “Legacy” took Grand Album at WPPI in 2010.)

When selecting a topic for your personal project, here are some tips:

Go with Your Gut : Stay true to your convictions. Shoot from your soul.

Find Your Voice : Ask yourself… What genre appeals to you? What motivates you? What do you hope to achieve? What medium do you want to use to share your project?

Stay True to You : Do exactly the kind of work you want to be known for.

Be Clear : Stick to a single story or viewpoint. Make sure all elements have the same goal. Convey a unified point of view with a clear thought process. Have a beginning, middle and end.

Get Help : Create a team to help, and be prepared to lead them.

Challenge Yourself : Make it a priority in your schedule. Find something that truly inspires you and share it.

Pierre Stephenson

Master: Changing the World of Low-Light Photography

Recognize the Iconic You : Your history, memory and life experience make you who you are. Another photographer will see something completely differently from you for that reason. Best of all, clients that like your work will relate to you and your unique style.

Warm-up Pre-Shoot : Everything you do before a shoot effects your creativity and frame of mind. Watch a movie, go for a walk, listen to music. These activities will break you out of the box of reality and help you see and create differently.

Be Flexible : Don’t stress about the right way. There’s more than one way to do things and you should find what works best for you.

Experiment : Adding flash to a scene can help with exposure, but it can also make the moment less believable; artificial light can tell the viewer something isn’t quite right or natural. Try working with available light when possible to achieve something different.

Our advice?… Just Go With It!

Everyone has different ideas, tips and methods – the best thing to do is pinpoint those that speak to your personally and just try them out! What do you have to lose?

These are just some of the amazing speakers that literally “spoke” to me about how they continue to hone their craft and keep seeing things with a fresh eye. But the one downside to WPPI is that there are SO many great speakers and you just can’t be everywhere at once! Luckily, we got to hear a few things as well from Photo Betty, Linda Morrow, about her most inspiring experience:

“This was my third time to WPPI. I went in 2008, 2010 and this year. A moment during one of last year’s platform classes stayed with me all year. Jerry Ghionis showed a slideshow of a recent wedding he did. My jaw was on the floor. I thought if I could shoot a portfolio like that in all of my career I would be happy, yet he had done it in a single wedding. I was impressed to say the least! Still, this year I didn’t want to see just the people I saw last year, I wanted to find new inspirations. I had signed up to see another photographer’s presentation one day, but at the last minute changed my mind and again went to see Jerry’s. I’m so glad I did.

Amazingly talented, hilarious, sincere and inspirational are all words I would use to describe him. He brought people on stage to pose each other and then tweaked their poses to take them to the next level. Then, he told us things he would say to the couple to get not just one great shot, but 20 out of that pose. He also told stories of situations he where he had to bring out the perfect expression or emotion in people who weren’t quite feeling it at the moment. I figured as one of the top photographers in the world, Jerry would just go into a wedding and be instantly respected and listened to. I really appreciated that he shared a story where the family didn’t exactly get his personality at first and how he turned that around. There were so many good pieces to Jerry Ghionis’ presentation. I’ll definitely be incorporating his tips into my future weddings!”

Did you get inspired by someone in particular at WPPI this year? What messages did they share that compelled you to find YOUR creative voice? Share with us your comments below!


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